There is often a theoretical debate over when the response function ends and the recovery function begins. For our purposes we will classify the response function as the immediate actions to save lives, protect property, and meet basic human needs. The recovery function is not so easily classified. This function often begins in the initial hours and days following a disaster event and can continue for months and in some cases years, depending on the severity of the event.
Unlike the response function, where all efforts have a singular focus, the recovery function or process is characterized by a complex set of issues and decisions that must be made by individuals and communities. Recovery involves decisions and actions relative to rebuilding homes, replacing property, resuming employment, restoring businesses, and permanently repairing and rebuilding infrastructure. The recovery process requires balancing the more immediate need to return the community to normalcy with the longer term goal of reducing future vulnerability. The recovery process can provide individuals and communities with opportunities to become more economically secure and improve the overall safety and quality of life.
Because the recovery function has such long lasting impacts and (generally) high costs, the participants in the process are numerous. They include all levels of government, the business community, political leadership, community activists, and individuals. Each of these groups plays a role in determining how the recovery will progress. Some of these roles are regulatory, such as application of State or local building ordinances, and some, such as the insurance industry, provide financial support. The goal of an effective recovery is to bring all of the players together to plan, finance and implement a recovery strategy that will rebuild the disaster impacted area safer and more secure as quickly as possible.
The precipitating event for an area impacted by a disaster is the Presidential declaration of disaster under the Stafford Act. Recovery activities begin immediately after a Presidential declaration as the agencies of the Federal Government collaborate with the State in the impacted area in coordinating the implementation of recovery programs and the delivery of recovery services.